Wheat Leading Grain, Soybeans Mostly Higher Overnight

Grain and soybean futures prices are mostly higher in overnight trading, led by wheat, which is catching a short-covering bid as funds realign their positions amid thin news and rising worries about US dryness.\r\n   The crisis in Ukraine continues to give traders jitters, even though grain shipments to and through the ports remains unaffected.\r\n   Corn is following wheat reluctantly, especially after Brazil’s CONAB Wednesday issued a higher corn production estimate than traders were expecting.  CONAB pegged total corn production at 75.2 million tonnes, only slightly lower than the 75.5-million-tonne estimate in February but still above the USDA’s estimate of 70 million.\r\n   Brazil’s summer corn production was reduced 1.2 million tonnes on lower yield in some areas because of drought, although the second-crop production estimate was raised on a hike in acreage and a slight bump in yield.\r\n   Market analysts report moisture conditions in Brazil’s Corn Belt are more than adequate currently, and should they remain so, production is likely to provide ample stocks for export.  AgResource estimates that the USDA is underestimating Brazilian corn exports slightly.\r\n   China continues to try to resell Brazilian soybeans back into the market or cancel orders outright, market analysts said.  It’s unclear just how much has been cancelled, but there are indications the volumes have been sizeable.  Reports indicate some port elevators have switched to corn from soybeans.\r\n   The USDA Wednesday issued a report on the planting prospects in Ukraine.  http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2014/03/ukr_11march2014/\r\nThe report says current prospects for winter crops and spring sowing remain generally favorable.  Wheat planting is done, and the availability of inputs for row-crop planting remains uninterrupted, the USDA said.\r\n   Conditions for winter wheat production in Ukraine have generally been favorable, and “the Hydromet Center of Ukraine reports that winter crop losses will be lower than average this year,” the USDA said.\r\n   Importantly, access to standard sources of credit for Ukraine’s farmers has not been impeded, the USDA said.  Borrowing from banks is limited anyway by interest rates of around 20%, forcing producers to use their own money or forward sell their crops to fund their input needs.\r\n   However, traders became nervous yesterday when Crimea’s parliament declared independence from Ukraine ahead of Sunday’s referendum to determine whether the people of Crimea want to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia.  At first, it seemed Parliament was upstaging the vote, but a Reuters story this morning says it is a necessary step before Sunday’s vote. \r\n   Meanwhile, the whole issue of Crimea continues to upset markets and even upstage the political turmoil still going on in the rest of Ukraine.\r\n   Hog markets continue to drive the livestock trade.  Production remains tight, and the pork cutout value is record high, but with April off more than $1.00 and June and July only a little higher, the panic may have evaporated for now, market analysts said. \r\n   The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus remains unchecked, but heavier slaughter weights appear to be making up for most of the lost pork production, analysts said.  Cash prices continue to rise, but the CME appears to have priced in ample pork production losses.\r\n   No fed cattle trading was reported in the Plains Wednesday.  Market momentum appears to be sluggish, grinding higher as bullish near-term fundamentals maintain support while uncertainty about cash strength and consumer acceptance of higher prices weighs on rallies, ADMIS said.\r\n   Cash bids surfaced in the Plains Wednesday at $146 per cwt on a live basis, but asking prices held between $150 to $152.  No dressed-basis bids were reported, but asking prices were around $242. \r\n   Slaughter is catching up with last week, with the USDA estimating the week-to-date kill at 334,000 head, on par with last week.  However, the figure is 6.7% behind the 358,000 at the same time a year ago.\r\n   The USDA reported choice boxed-beef Wednesday at $241.51 per cwt, up $0.04 and select at $236.76, down $0.95.  The choice/select spread widened to $4.75, but the number of fabricated loads sold into the spot market was an impressive 207.\r\n   Feeder cattle were up Wednesday as the market responded to support in the live cattle pit and technical buying interest.\r\n   The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $173.70, up $0.14 while the March futures contract closed Wednesday at $173.97, up $0.05.\r\n